More support for dads
New dads can be under a lot of pressure. In addition to providing emotional support to their partners, they are often taking shifts soothing the baby at night and working full-time. It’s hardly surprising that they might develop postnatal depression, yet that’s something that is not talked about much.
Some of the issues facing new dads are addressed by UK baby brand, Nuby who are calling for more support for new dads, especially those facing mental health issues:
A blessing and a challenge
There is nothing more satisfying for a new dad than embracing their newborn son or daughter in their hands. But along with the blissful moments of raising a life come a few challenges, especially for first-time dads.
First, there are physical challenges: sleep deprivation, daily routine changes and unexpected events.. It might take some time to adjust, and it also means that alone time, which is useful for recouping, may be reduced.
Then comes the financial pressure. Baby essentials add huge expense to the family budget and it can help to spread the cost over time.
Dads may also feel disconnected from the rest of the family, especially if the mother is the primary caregiver. Some relationship dynamics change, leaving new dads questioning their value and self-confidence.
Postnatal depression in new dads
All these factors can contribute to stress and anxiety among new dads and even lead to postnatal depression which is usually attributed to women but men can be affected too. Non-birthing partners are not generally screened for postpartum depression (PPD), which means that many cases may go un-reported.
Postpartum depression is characterised by the baby blues that occur within the first weeks, but if the symptoms continue for more than a month and start to interfere with a parent’s ability to perform daily tasks, it is classed as PPD. Symptoms of postnatal depression in new dads can include feelings of sadness, guilt, irritability, exhaustion and changes in appetite or sleep patterns. PPD can also manifest physically as headaches, stomach problems, or muscle pain.
Opening the conversation
The more open we are about dads’ mental health, the less it is that cases of PPD will slip through the net. Creating a safe and supportive environment where dads can talk about their feelings without fear of judgement is important. Show empathy by acknowledging that the transition to fatherhood can be challenging and that asking for help is okay. And apply good conversation skills such as asking open-ended questions (‘How have you been feeling since the baby arrived?’) and listening actively.
Practical steps to support new dads
- Encourage self-care. Self-care can go a long way in soothing symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Encourage dads to prioritise self-care, whether it's exercise, reading a book or taking a nap.
- Offer practical support. After birth, try not to overload the dad in the family with chores. When you can, offer to help with some practical tasks, such as cooking a meal, cleaning or running errands. You can even ask a family member to help.
- Encourage professional help. If the dad in your family is experiencing persistent or severe symptoms, encourage him to seek professional help from a therapist, counsellor or mental health professional. Let him know that seeking help is totally acceptable and a sign of strength.
- Provide social support. Connecting with other dads or supportive friends and family members can help reduce stress. There are many social support groups and community programs where dads can meet dads and find a community of like-minded people to help them on their exciting fatherhood journey.